Orlando Hernandez

Orlando Hernandez to retire

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Orlando Hernandez hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger in the big leagues since 2007, and he hasn’t thrown a pitch anywhere this year, but he had not announced his retirement.  Until now. At least according to multiple Tweets to that effect, most notably by Jon Heyman.

El Duque pitched nine seasons in the majors, most memorably with the Yankees, for whom he was a key part of their 1998, 1999 and 2000 World Series championships.  He got another ring with the White Sox in 2005.  In those nine seasons he went 90-65 with an ERA of 4.13 while registering 1086 strikeouts to 479 walks.

But Hernandez was obviously more than a line of stats and some World Series rings. One of the most celebrated Cuban baseball players ever, he famously defected in December 1997. The story was that he was on a leaky raft, risking life and limb.  The reality was that he was on a fishing boat with a big-ass engine, and once he reached the Bahamas he was flown to New York on a chartered jet.  Hey, it’s showbiz.

Most famously, of course, and certain to be the subject of lots of one-liners as the morning wears on, was the matter of his age.  He claimed to be 28 when he defected, but hardly anyone believed that.  A few years later it was revealed in some leaked divorce papers that he was born in 1965. While Major League Baseball still lists a 1969 birth date for him, everyone else who matters — Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN, etc. — uses the 1965 date.  There have been rumors, however, that he is much older still.  It’s rather academic now, at least until he applies for medicare or wants to access his 401K or something.

Always a fun guy, and the dude that should probably have his picture next to the word “crafty” in the dictionary, El Duque — though he has been off the scene for some time — will be missed.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

It’s not known yet what kind of contract the two sides are negotiating. It could be a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a non-guaranteed major league contract, or a guaranteed major league contract.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.